Churches voice opposition to Illegal Migration Bill

* Updated 10 March 2023 *.

Churches are expressing concern and opposition to the Illegal Migration Bill which had its first reading in the UK House of Commons on 7 March 2023:

Baptist Union, Methodist Church and URC

Leaders from the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church (URC) have signed a joint statement expressing opposition to the government’s new ‘Illegal Migration Bill’:

“We are appalled by the proposals in the government’s ‘Illegal Migration Bill’ to detain, punish and reject thousands of people seeking safety. They are completely incompatible with our Christian conviction that all human beings are made in the image of God, and are therefore inherently worthy of treatment which honours their dignity. Instead of dignity, these plans will foster discrimination and distrust, and cause immeasurable harm to people already made vulnerable by conflict and persecution. If ever there was a contemporary example of ignoring our neighbour and walking by on the other side, this is it.”

Read the full statement on the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) website.

Catholic Church in England and Wales

The Lead Bishop for Migrants and Refugees, Bishop Paul McAleenan, said:

“Everyone who makes a dangerous journey across the Channel to build a better life here has a name, a face, and a story.

“People are driven from their homes by poverty, conflict, persecution, natural disasters, or other factors that prevent their flourishing. Many have links to the UK or family members already living here. Yet, far too often, there are no safe routes open to them.

“While we all wish to end dangerous Channel crossings, this new legislation treats migrants and refugees as a problem to be solved rather than brothers and sisters towards whom we have responsibilities. Establishing more safe routes, and genuinely understanding people’s individual circumstances are essential to meeting these.

“As Christians we call for the human person, made in the image and likeness of God, to be put at the heart of public policy.”

The statement is available on the Catholic Church in England and Wales website.

Church of England

Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, who speaks for the Church of England on refugees, commented:

“It would label all those crossing the Channel illegal entrants and therefore people to whom we do not owe a responsibility and would criminalise the act of claiming asylum – without acknowledging that many are highly vulnerable people escaping persecution and war, who have been left with no safe routes…

“We must not abdicate our legal and moral responsibility to some of the world’s most vulnerable by simply treating asylum seekers as a group not to be welcomed or integrated, but detained and returned. We must do and be better.”

Read the full statement on the Church of England website.

Church of Scotland

The Church of Scotland is urging the UK Government to reconsider its plan to pass a bill aimed at preventing asylum seekers and refugees who cross the English Channel by boat from being considered for asylum or remaining in the country.

“The proposed ‘Illegal Migration Bill’ goes against everything that we uphold and value in our faith and communities – the dignity and value of all humans and their right to seek safety when their lives are threatened and torn apart”, said Rev Karen Hendry, convener of the Church of Scotland’s Faith Impact Forum.

Read the full statement on the Church of Scotland website.

Quakers in Britain

Quakers in Britain has described the government’s new migration bill as ‘inhumane’ because it would subject thousands of vulnerable people to destitution, detention and deportation, arguing that the plans will violate the UK’s duties under international law.

“The government should focus on tackling the drivers of forced migration by promoting peace and climate justice around the world and ensuring that people aren’t forced to risk their lives in small boats by expanding safe and legal routes for those seeking sanctuary”, commented Paul Parker, Recording Clerk of Quakers in Britain.

Read the full statement on the Quakers in Britain website.

Salvation Army

“The Salvation Army is extremely concerned that the Illegal Migration Bill, published today, will have an unintended but nevertheless devastating impact on victims of modern slavery”, said Kathy Betteridge, Director of Anti Trafficking and Modern Slavery for The Salvation Army.

“Illegal immigration is a weapon used to exploit people for profit and it’s essential that the Government tackle the inhumane use of small boats by criminal gangs. We may never know the true number of those who have perished at sea.

“However automatically detaining and then removing people as they arrive will deliver vulnerable people back into the hands of the criminal gangs who have exploited them. This does nothing to break the cycle of exploitation or help victims break free. Rather, it feeds the criminal networks who profit from the lives of vulnerable people. It is essential that genuine victims of modern slavery aren’t refused the right to seek our help.”

Read the full statement on the Salvation Army website.

Scottish Episcopal Church

The Bishop of Edinburgh, Rt Rev John Armes, has commented (via Twitter):

“I’m deeply uncomfortable with the UK Government’s bill on migration. This is a multifaceted and divisive issue with many moral implications, and one which impacts on how we view ourselves as a society and what we hold dear. Refugees and migrants are among the most vulnerable people on our planet and to expect them to bear the brunt of this new law is simply cruel. ‘Stop the Boats’. ‘Build the Wall’. These are catchy slogans, but they spring from fear and suspicion rather than compassion.”

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